The Scottish Enlightenment

The union of Scotland with England in 1707 meant the end of the Scottish Parliament and independence. Rather than sinking into the despair of the Dark Ages, an impoverished and uneducated Scotland flourished under the birth of an intellectual and philosophical movement known as the Scottish Enlightenment.

Among the fields that rapidly advanced were philosophy, political economy, engineering, architecture, medicine, geology, archaeology, law, agriculture, chemistry and sociology.

The Enlightenment culture was based on close readings of new books, and intense discussions that took place daily at intellectual gathering places in Edinburgh.

Among the Scottish thinkers and scientists of the period were Francis Hutcheson, David Hume (pictured below), Adam Smith, Dugald Stewart, Thomas Reid, Robert Burns, Adam Ferguson, John Playfair, Joseph Black and James Hutton.

Truth springs from argument
amongst friends.
— David Hume, Scottish Philosopher

Educational institutions also played an important role in leading Scotland to its reputation as a chief intellectual center during the Enlightenment. This included St. Andrews, Glasgow, Edinburgh (EST 1582, pictured above) and Aberdeen.

St. Andrews, EST 1410

Glasgow University, EST 1451

Aberdeen University, EST 1495

The Scottish Enlightenment had effects far beyond Scotland, not only because of the esteem in which Scottish achievements were held outside Scotland, but also because its ideas and attitudes were carried all over Europe and across the Atlantic world.